Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve

I promised the kids (in Caid's family, this means anywhere from 4-14 people) pancakes for Christmas morning. They got all excited today, until I reminded them over a bowl of cereal it was still Christmas EVE.
What an incredible year. Amazing. And more to come. So this is what they meant when they said growing up was like getting on a fast train that never stops...
Here is us, and here is what we have planned:
Man, my hair was long. Here is Living Stones. Here is this year:
For those of you who prefer reading, here is a quick review:
November 2013: Got married
December 2013: Home for Christmas
January 2014: Job hunting
February: first Valentine’s day
March: Commissioned as missionaries, married in Indy and Connecticut
April: SC training in Cali
May: Caid had knee surgery
June: Trek for Transportation
July: Teaching at USF Tampa
August: State Fair summer fun
September: 9 godchildren!
October: Brazil
November: Baby Ferguson in June 2015

We have had the sweetest first year of marriage, representing Living Stones to the USA churches, and working with different clients who have special needs. It has been wonderful to live so close to family and be able to travel to Connecticut, Cali, Florida, and back to Brazil. Caid is graduating (on the president’s list) with his degree (Urban Leadership) early 2015. Rachel is growing a baby, and we are planning to move to Brazil the end of March 2015. Caid will teach music and work  with sports and Living Stones. Rachel will be writing and networking when not having a baby In June.

We are working on raising $10,000 for airfare, birthing expenses, and basic relocation costs. AMAZING UPDATE: almost $7,000 has come in!
We are also asking for a small group of faithful monthly supporters, who feel called to minister with us. We need $1,000 more a month for basic living costs.
AMAZING UPDATE: $500 monthly has been promised!
Please let us know if you would like us to come and share about Brazil and what God is doing to your small group or church!

More information about us in Brazil: 
Living Stones blog:
Rachel’s blog:

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sequence of Not Believing

It starts with a doubt: overhearing the older kid say there is no Santa. You turn away, but the doubt clings, just a little. Then it turns into a question--a question that becomes real when you voice it. Then begins your fact finding: conversations, books, internet, hearsay...Who knows what sources can be trusted? And then comes some kind of conclusion. It might be an answer to your question. Maybe you just settle for a vague idea.
We are a generation of skeptics. It is cool to question: it is mandatory to question. Innocence is labeled laziness: you must do your duty to become cynical. If you can't BE the next big thing, you had better be mocking it.
I've been told I see sunshine and rainbows too much because I ignore the clouds and rain. I believe we have much more power than that: I believe I can stand in the clouds and rain and remember the sunshine and rainbows--and CHOOSE the sunshine and rainbows. And I don't think this makes me weak: I believe it is one of my strengths.
Bill Cosby: from classic to trash it in seconds. Doubt in my head. I asked my husband, "Do you think he did it? that that's the kind of person he was the whole time?" I recently read a beautiful blog by Ann Voskamp about when she had seen abuse happen and was just shrugged off here. The statistics of rape allegations around the world actually being prosecuted are so low--what is wrong with us? Why would I doubt these women? But then again...I am a woman. And I know our tools of manipulation...

While I was wondering about Cosby's character, my husband was thinking different thoughts, "My mother warned me my whole life about women like that." Do I stand with women simply because they are women? Do I just want Cosby to be the Cosby I always thought he was? I don't know. I don't know if I will ever know the true facts. It just touches on so many important issues:
* The low rate of prosecuted rape allegations
* Who do I trust, really?
* How do you know when someone is lying?
* What makes it a "Big Enough Issue" to really care about?

From 13 Months married to 3 months pregnant

So I did tell Caid after the first year we could stop celebrating "month-a-versaries." Now we are celebrating "moving out of the first trimester." Because it was really pretty horrible.

I felt old. I felt grumpy. I could smell everything and wanted nothing. And exhausted. So exhausted that I didn't even appreciate sleeping. And the worst part? Life just wasn't fun anymore: it was all hard work. It is really hard when you don't enjoy anything. I love people and projects and work and life...but not anymore. I just ended up laying in bed until I fell asleep.
I used to wonder about this "hormone change" people would talk about. The other day my husband said, "I miss you." As I was about to ask him why, I hadn't gone anywhere--I realized that I missed myself. I missed enjoying life. I missed my creativity and drive and if that wasn't me anymore--who the heck am I? Hormone changes are scary because it makes you question your whole identity: If I am not the same as I always used to be--then who am I?
This past week I survived my first day since Brazil (end of October) without a nap. But it made me hope for glimpses of my second trimester, which everyone says is "almost like normal." Saturday we had a ladies missions meeting. Probably why God invented church--or at least missions--to remind us it is not all about us. I was thinking in my head how much WORK it all was when I finally got caught up in the Christmas song "The virgin sings her lulluby: the babe, the son of Mary."
I teared up. All the complaining I've been doing about being pregnant--just now realized I was pregnant around Christmas. And I am not a virgin, but since I was for 31 years, and only a non-virgin for a little over one year--I still relate. Mary was pregnant for the first time; and so am I. Silly as it sounds, I understood Christmas better in that moment, in a way I couldn't' before. And next year, holding my child, I will understand on an even deeper level. How blessed I am!

Once You Ask..

A recent conversation with my sister yielded this insight: “Once you ask people for money, you give them permission to judge you.”
And whether this is right or not, this is true. And I am entering a world I shunned for a long time. The first four years I served as a missionary, I did not call myself a missionary, and I didn’t ask for funds (aside from close family members). I came home part of every year and worked to pay for most of my expenses.
Then a friend asked me, “Do you not feel worthy to be called a missionary? How is this going to work for your future?” I sat down and put together my first budget, and let people know my needs. I lived off of less than half the USA poverty level. I lived simply, and often waited to purchase items, but didn’t lack any needs. It wasn’t until 2012 that I realized I was WORTH my hire.
I was a trained professional who was logging in 60-80 hour work weeks because I loved and believed in what I was doing: and I was doing a really good job. And I didn’t need to feel guilty about asking people to support me. In what I had chosen to do, it simply wasn’t a paid position—but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a needed position, or a valid position.

I also realized that just as I needed funds to continue, people needed opportunities to give. This is quite a concept. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am: becoming a missionary family. Asking people for money to help us live (and give birth) in Brazil. It is a big, scary step. It is inviting a lot of eyes, ears, and opinions into my life that I’d rather ignore. But it is also opening up to share an incredible adventure with others—the one that I believe God has called us (and prepared us) to do. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

The amazing couple that wrote "Half the Sky" is back! If you haven't heard me talk about "Half the Sky" and what a great book it is, and how anyone involved or caring about women and children around the world should READ it, then you haven't been around me enough. This was my favorite book of 2013.

They have now written "A Path Appears." This couple makes normally dense reading fun by having facts and statistics about poverty, problems, and possible solutions woven through stories of real people doing real things. While "Half the Sky" focused on women's issues around the world (rape, birth, equality, education...), "A Path Appears" is more about charities: how to give and do it well. They state often that, "Talent is universal, but opportunity is not." So this book is ways to give opportunities.

"Let's remember that the difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline but also by an inextricable mix of luck, brain chemistry, child rearing, genetics, and outside help. Let's recognize that success in life is a reflection not only of enterprise and willpower but also of chance and early upbringing, and that compassion isn't a sign of weakness but a mark of civilization."

Caid will tell you not to get me started, but seriously...can you say that Bill Gates (or any rich rich person), walking into work, truly works HARDER or LONGER to deserve the thousands he makes an hour--compared to my friends in Brazil who put in a 12 hour day in the sugar cane field and make a dollar an hour?

Don't tell me he deserves it because he worked harder or is smarter: 50% of that was set just because he won the family lottery of being born in the Gates home rather than in a third world country. 30% more of that is from the education and love and care and investment of those around him his whole life. Okay--I'll give you up to 20% of the reason he is successful is because he made wise, hard, good choices. MAYBE 20%. But you can't convince me that this means he deserves his income and my friend in the sugar cane deserves his.

"Not one of the fifty biggest donations to charity in 2012 in the United States went to an organization that principally serves the poor at home or abroad. Of all the money donated in America, only about one-third goes to the needy." (It goes on to explain most of donations are to the arts or top universities not serving the bottom half of income population--the rich giving money to themselves.)

"The 85 wealthiest people in the world have approximately the same net worth as the bottom 3.5 billion." How can this be okay, my capitalist friends? The book is not a shares about many people, in the richest percentile, including the Gates, who are pledging to live off less and give more.

"The number of children dying before the age of 5 has almost halved since 1990. In 1980, half the population lived in extreme poverty ($1.25 a day). That share is now down to 20%. By 2030, almost every boy and girl in the world will go to primary school and learn to read. For all of human history until 1950, a majority of adults were illiterate."

"Treat making a gift (donation) as seriously as you would making a big purchase, like a new sofa. Be careful about making blind donations. To be generous does not mean being gullible or a pushover." They had lots of facts about charities...and how unfortunately, many are simply not efficient or worth it.

"One basic question is whether to focus on problems in the poorest countries or in neighborhoods closer to home. We believe both are reasonable options. We push back at the idea that we should "solve our own problems first" before tackling global challenges. The needs abroad are unquestionably greater. Your donation also goes much further abroad, and if all lives have equal value, then it is certainly cheaper to save a child's life or educate a student in Uganda than in New York."

They give many stories of awesome charity groups in the USA and abroad doing great things. Charity:Water is highlighted, which was neat since I had a great chat with a friend about this, and personally have a crush on their non-profit, trying to copy all I can. Over all, helping kids with basic food and health issues is cheap (twenty cents to a couple thousand dollars to literally SAVE a life), especially in a third world country where it is getting supplies/care to them that we in the USA take for granted.

What is expensive is education. Once basic food and health issues are covered, education is normally the next focus, as it should be: but it is much harder to measure (once you get past basic reading and math), and extends much deeper into the life and culture of the people: meaning you are often up against generationally set ideas--whether this is against female circumcision, equality, cooking/cleanliness habits, gender roles, violence, alcoholism...the list is endless. "It takes a life to reach a life." And that is expensive.

It was noted preventative care is always cheaper and more efficient than trying to "fix someone" once they are "broken." Their suggestion was investing in a nurse visitation program to unwed, younger mothers, as studies proved their children had less birth problems (from drug/alcohol abuse) and better early care leading to a higher graduation rate. Their premise is that the care you receive the first 2 years (and while pregnant) of life will pretty much determine if you graduate high school and can become a "productive member of society."

In the USA, Head-start and other preschool programs did not make a notable difference in children, and neither did them coming from a one or two parent home: if they were making above poverty level income. But they were the two most defining aspects for success or failure in poor homes: preschool helped give what the parent(s) were not able to, and having two parents in poverty homes cut the chance of abuse by around 80%.

After pre-school, most government intervention plans in the USA cost upwards of $2,000 per year per student. And that was considered a reasonable plan. Here was their take on a good question:

"Does it make sense to visit a literacy project in India to see it for yourself when the money spent on travel could send dozens of Indian children to school for a year? Our answer is yes, as long as the money comes from your entertainment budget and not your giving budget."

I really enjoyed this book, and feel it is an important read for anyone in the non-profit world. It asks hard questions about giving good and efficient care and opportunity--instead of just trying to fix things. It has the facts and statistics we need to know. It also highlights many good things happening in the world, and tells their story; and stories are what we remember once we close the book.

And of course they have a website. Those in Christian ministry need to have a knowledge and perspective on what is going on in secular charity, and this book gives it. But I did like "Half the Sky" better, even if just because the facts shocked me into action.

Limes and Naps

The baby is two inches, about this size of a lime, but resembling much more of a caterpillar. 

I finally understand what bothers me so much about being pregnant: I feel old. For the first time in my life. I look younger than I am. I have always acted younger as well--this is part of my personality. Even getting married I was thinking, "Are they really just going to let me do this? I am just a 31 year old little girl giving my life away!" 

But now I feel old. I can understand the baby taking all my energy. I can understand these weird burps and stuff that happen. I can even get used to the fact my stomach will never be the name: but I never thought it would require all my drive and creativity as well.

When I used to have PMS (one day a month), there would be three stages: Stage 1: Don't touch me, I just want to curl up in a ball and stair at the wall until I can finally fall asleep. Stage 2: I am tired and grumpy, and just want to read a book/watch a movie. Stage 3: beware I am not my cheerful self, but I am determined to get things done and go on with my life.

Most mornings I now live in Stage 1 and drag myself into Stage 3 sometime around lunch. Sometimes I get a few normal hours in there somewhere. Now, getting something done is a major victory instead of normal. And yes, I do cheer myself on. I really miss my creativity and drive: I truly value those qualities. Luckily, most of the time I am too tired to miss anything greatly.

Thanksgiving was simple and perfect. This is my second Thanksgiving married, but definitely the best--last year Caid had a 24 hour bug that meant all he ate was ginger ale, laying in bed. I tried to be the dutiful wife and stay with him most of the day. 

This Thanksgiving had Anna and Rowan spend the night, watching old videos on Thanksgiving eve (which should be a "thing"), waking up slow and going to watch "Big Hero 6," with $5 bills from Dad, coming home to food being everywhere and people everywhere and lovely godchildren and smash brothers. Then a glorious nap for way too long, visit to Starbucks, and more lazy togetherness. 

I did manage two hours of shopping in on Friday before succumbing to a nice nap. Is just such a nice thing in life to be thankful. 

In other news, some amazing friends of mine, Pastor Flavio and Mercia, are just looking too cute:)
They are due for their first baby girl in the middle of January.
Not only are they working on saving or a home (they currently live in a Sunday school classroom at the church in Cajueiro Claro), but they are hoping to have a natural birth--or at least the option to TRY to have a natural birth. 

For those of you who are mommas or have studied about this and are passionate about it, this is a cause that deserves your attention: in Brazil, well over 80% of births are c-section. Brazilian women have three basic options: 1. Go to the public hospital when you go into labor, where there are long lines, often no doctor, and rather unsure level of care given. (more information here) 2. Schedule a private doctor to do a c-section (minimum charge $1,000), or 3. Try to get one of the 6 doctors in Recife (pop. 4 million) who actually specialize in natural births (minimum charge $5,000). 

Mercia looked at many doctors and finally chose one, going for #2, the more affordable option. But the doctor informed her that she would schedule no later than Dec. 29, because she was going on vacation all of January (remember, Mercia isn't due until January 14th), and it would be a scheduled c-section--no other option (Read this for the whole story). 

If you would like to help out this amazing couple who has given their lives to serve children with Living Stones, then here is the link to do so. I am asking this as a friend, not as the coordinator of Living Stones. Unfortunately as I would like, we cannot give this opportunity to every mother in the ministry in Brazil (yet), and so we are just passing the word along a friends. Thank you for caring:). 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pregnancy Thoughts

Since we are so bad at keeping secrets, since I couldn't write about being pregnant on my blog, I didn't write anything. But I did think a lot. Actually, I thought/prayed/slept a lot--going from one state to the other without even realizing it...
Size (by food)
Nov. 9-15
Nov.30-Dec 6
Dec. 7-13
Dec. 14-20
Dec. 21-27
Dec. 28-Jan.3
Jan. 11-17
Sweet potato
Jan 18-24
Jan 25-31
Feb. 1-7
Feb. 15-21
Feb. 22-28
Mar. 1-7
Mar. 8-14
Mar 15-21
Mar. 22-28
Mar 29-April 4
Acorn Squash
Apr. 5-11
Apr. 12-18
Apr. 19-25
Apr. 26-May 2
May 2-9
Butternut squash
May 10-16
May 17-23
May 24-30
Winter Mellon
May 31-June 6
June 7-13
June 14-20
Jack fruit

 Isn't this the coolest? So the baby is (nine weeks) an olive size. Other random thoughts:

* I wanted 10 kids when I was younger, I wanted 5 kids as soon as my friends started having kids. I wanted 3 kids when I got married, and now I am just trying to get through this one kid. (Note: yes, daddy, I want as many kids as God wants for me.)

* Apparently, my nose has always had the ability to smell EVERYTHING, my brain just didn't use that sense until NOW. Why? Because my brain hates me.

* My creativity and energy has been sucked out of my life and into growing a baby. I now live for a long morning nap. 

* I have never felt so connected to food before. I love food. Food makes me feel better. And yet, half the time food sounds awful. 

* Caid is being a darling about being a good husband, but when he holds me it hurts my tummy and when he breathes on me it makes me nauseous. He is working on being patient. I am working on not making faces when he kisses me. 

* None of the cute pictures we took to show off my belly will post for my Facebook profile. Apparently, my belly is too far away from my face to show them both. And yes, I am excited to blame my belly on having a baby in there, even if I did "stick it out" to get the picture.

*  If I had been God, I would have planned the "yucky" first trimester later on, when I at least have a baby bump to prove something. I keep worrying about being pulled over by a police officer, crying/emotionally falling apart, and then saying "I'm pregnant--" why would he ever believe me?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

One Year Married

We left for Brazil serving six Living Stones programs, and came back with one functioning Living Stones, and five that are in other stages of ministry. Coming together to build up strong.
I had a way of doing things. Undone. Learning to ask and submit to others instead of plunging forward on my own. Undone. Even within my own body, in my middle of middles, there was an undoing of my life as I knew it, as a baby was being created.
I suspected the morning I left for Brazil. That somewhere in the last weeks, a miracle created inside me. A secret—just God and this new soul knew about—tingling in cells buried deep in me. In Brazil I was in Brazil—my focus on a long list of things to do and people to see. And we did. Now I am home and find I am pregnant. And I sit and stare into space about it (from the utter exhaustion that overcomes me random minutes of the day, and from the whole idea of it—it is quite a lot to get your head around).

Undone were all of my plans, and this one was stated: having my baby in Brazil. My firstborn, a Brazilian. Caid hugged me and said, “The whole thing scares me, but I think this is how things are going to go.” I nod, my mouth closed from nausea and overwhelming first trimester issues—relocate, change, move everything…all while pregnant? The idea seems impossible. Yet one by one things seem to be falling into place.

We, Caid and Rachel Ferguson are happy to announce that we are expecting a baby June 17, 2015. With Caid finishing his bachelor’s degree spring 2015, we have decided to begin our ministry together in Brazil, and welcome our new baby into our lives there. Our needs are in two phases:
Phase 1 is raising $10,000 for airfare, all birthing expenses, and basic relocation costs. We are also asking for a small group of faithful monthly supporters, who feel called to minister with us. We need $1,000 a month for basic living costs.
Phase 2 is when we return fall 2015 with specific and concrete plans, welcome you to meet our child, and raise the funds for a vehicle. Thank you for your care and interest on the adventure that God has called us on! 

 So that basically sums up my first year of marriage. This last month has been going to Brazil, being pregnant in Brazil, coming home from Brazil, and planning the next steps. I am completely, 100% on-board and excited about having our child in Brazil: how amazing has this adventure with God been since I was 16 and felt Him say “Brazil is yours?”
Caid has been helpful and loving in all ways possible, especially in my grumpy “don’t breathe on me” first trimester. He has stepped up and been my support in ways I didn’t even know I needed. He is leading our family in faith, as we seek the Lord and truly believe He is leading us to serve and trust Him in Brazil.
So married one year. Caid made it through all of my “month-a-versaries.” Now he shakes his head as I let him know that now we get to celebrate each month of pregnancy…and then, each month of our baby’s new life…will it ever end? Well, I hope my writing/blogging doesn’t.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eleven Months Married

This was "The List Prince Charming will be" when I was 19:
1. Saved and totally surrendered to the Lord
2. Ask for my advice
3. Stimulate my brain, be a “deep thinker”
4. Think I am nearly perfect and want to make me totally perfect
5. Live a life of purity, living up to the highest
6. Not be lazy—a hard worker
7. Feel free to talk to me about anything and I him
8. Always have time for me
9. Know what they want in life and stick to it
10. Be a spiritual leader
11. Be a gentleman
12. Love his mom and sisters and have great relationships with them
13. Have godly men that keep him accountable and do “guy stuff” with
14. Want lots of kids everywhere all the time
15. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and always wanting to share his insights
16. Not be a complainer
17. Be more in love with God and want to be with Him more than with me
18. Be involved with a ministry that reaches out and serves people
19. Keeps me accountable for my walk with God
20. Have nothing in their past that holds back the present or the future
21. Be generous with their money, but also wise, giving it all to God first
22. Talk to my father about me
23. Give me time and space to make my own decisions
24. Agree with my mom in politics
25. Be honest and open even when it requires sacrifice
26. Be a man of prayer
27. Not a pushover when it comes to discipline
28. We both “fit in” to the other’s families
29. We agree on doctrine and entertainment
30. I need to be attracted to him

Pretty complete list. But I didn't list the thing that I have most appreciated the past 11 months: being a generally happy person. You can call it optimism or positivity, but whatever it is, I am extremely grateful that Caid has it. I think I would wilt into a little ball if my husband was a downer. His optimism and excitement for life gives me permission to be realistic when normally I would be "sunshine and rainbows," making sure that everyone was having a good time and bought into whatever we are doing. It is so refreshing to not have to pull that load.

I woke up one morning and wanted to figure out my "words." I feel that whenever we are in close relationships with others, the two personalities collide, and in a sense, you become someone...more. Who you choose to marry affects who you become. If I had chosen to marry someone else, I would have become someone else. So I sorted through the life of Rachel and thought of past relationships: with one, I would have become "sharp and smart." With another "cared for and comfortable." with Caid? The words that came to my head were "happy and healthy." And truly, I couldn't have picked any words I'd rather be.
My sister told me I'd better think of the words she's given me as well, since she was a very important relationship too. Good point.

On past road trips, we have been listening to marriage podcasts. The most recent trip I realized I didn't want to, which made me question why to myself. The answer came that it is because we are doing really well--Caid and I--and without too much work/investment, and I was at the point of "Just don't screw it up." When we first got married, I wanted all the advice possible, because it was a blank page. But I don't want to ever stop growing, just because we are coasting.
So we listened to the podcast and it was really good. And at the part where it was giving advice to men, Caid stopped it and turned to me and said, "I want you to know I hear this." And he does--he already put those words into practice. It is really incredible to be married to someone who has the same goals as I do, and really does them.
We will arrive in Brazil on our 11 month anniversary, and be there for almost three weeks. We are at a wonderful place of not-knowing and assurance of something GRAND in God's plans. Changes are coming in many different ways, and we are determined not to just coast, but to play hard, work hard. I wrote about fashion, remembered the past, and ran a 5k this past month, and feel so blessed to be doing everything along side my prince Charming.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I only ate half the doughnut

I looked at it and knew I should have gone with the banana. I had just finished running 5k, and my stomach wasn't happy that I chose the doughnut. Halfway through eating it, I remembered I had the option to throw it away. I didn't have to eat the doughnut. So I tossed it. A perfectly good doughnut.

Where am I? At a really great place in life. Newly married to an amazing man who has enhanced my life in ways I didn't know were lacking. I remember being happy single, living a good life--but I don't remember that happiness being like it is now. It has changed--amplified--in some way. I am with my family, in a great community, doing exactly the kind of work I want to do. I am challenged and growing and learning. And it is fall.

Fall has always been my least favorite season: Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall. Fall is when everything gets cold and dies. But I also haven't been in the country for many falls the last ten years. I am finding I really like fall (considering it officially starts tomorrow, I might take that back later). The fall sunshine holds something peaceful. Crunching leaves gives me a joy. And the gradual cold is do-able. I like sweaters. Maybe the illustration I should use for fall is moving into a rest than into death.

So it is on a perfect, crisp, fall morning that I hold my doughnut and see so much more than an unhealthy snack. I see myself wasting food. That person. Not that a better solution would have been to stuff my face with the rest of the doughnut, or to get mad that they had free doughnuts going to waste in the first place. The answer wasn't even to feel guilty for not choosing the banana. So what was the answer?

My head will forever swell with faces of the children I know and love who do not have enough food. Who have never eaten a doughnut. And so while tossing half a doughnut is not a big deal, it is a big deal. 

As a little child I thought the solution was for my mom to mail our leftovers to "those kids." I was aware of them, even then. But now they are my kids, I have personal investment in them. Now I look at that doughnut, laying in the trash and feel so did I get here, to where I am throwing away food? Is it okay for me to be so happy here--away from them? Can I really live my life while I know theirs is being stunted and stolen away from them? 

I am working for Living Stones. I invest many hours a week to represent these children, and connect them to Jesus and a better life. I am making a difference. And it is just half a doughnut. But the holy discontent will never let it be just that.

The questions will always continue to resurface. Am I giving my all? Is Jesus asking me to sell all I have and give it to the poor? Not everyone--but is He asking me? Is He saying to Go into all the world: the world-parts that will make it hard to raise a family, that will have medical care that is lacking and can mean the difference between life and death? That won't have libraries? All of that with no financial security?

Sometimes it really sucks that I can't live a normal life. That I can't just eat half a doughnut.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Six years ago...

I drove to Daisy’s house (name changed for privacy). I had just learned that Daisy, 15, was pregnant. She, in her embarrassment, was telling everyone it was rape. I knocked at Daisy’s door, the big Doberman barking me away. Daisy and her mom came out, the later spitting threats about the boy and how this was a demon rape child. Daisy said she was getting an abortion. “Please,” I said, “please let me adopt the baby.”
The words surprised us both, and tears came to our eyes, but only Daisy let them spill. “I don’t know, Ms. Rachel,” She said, “I don’t know.”
I left her my phone number and left, awkwardly. There was nothing romantic or wonderful about it, TV blaring in the background. I was single and about to leave the country, but the moment the words left my mouth I knew they were true. I wanted that baby. And in that time, that baby had become my baby.
Daisy went back and forth in the next visits I made. I made different suggestions, different ideas—letting her know there were other options. She was not alone—I was not alone.
Daisy’s mother insisted this baby was going to be aborted. I broke down and cried that this baby get a chance to live. “No, no no. Ms. Rachel! You can talk and beg here all day, but my daughter is not having that baby.”
Daisy decided against the abortion. She decided for it, back and forth. Finally, she let me know the baby was gone. I had learned to love someone I could not see. Someone I did not know the gender, the intelligence of, the athletic ability. Someone that meant leaving the place I loved and being “tied down,” future unknown, with visions of long nights and drool. It wasn’t just any baby—it was my baby. Now I had a star in heaven, but stars in heaven don’t mend holes in your heart.
This is why I run in the walk/run for life. To remember my baby, to remember Daisy and so many girls and women like her. This is why I am asking for your support. This link may not work on smart phones (so sorry!), but you can donate here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Homeschooler's View of Fashion

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. Living in one of the worst public school systems in the state and not having funds for private school, my mom did have the smarts for teaching. Our religious background included the idea of not drawing attention to yourself: dark, plain clothing, that covered as much as possible. Welcome to Rachel’s world of fashion.

Through things left unspoken, I gathered that my body must be something bad, if it needed to be hidden. That curiosity would lead to sin, and that being noticed and admired was not good. I had all the makings of an old maid cat woman or a cynical rebel. But my parents genuinely loved and cared for me, and I had a community of people who invested in me until I could figure things out for myself. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.

I was an awkward, shy and fashion oblivious child who always found herself surrounded by the “cool kids:” my best friend, my sister, and my husband. They are the beautifullest, coolest, and most fashion forward people that I know. I wavered between being in awe of their put-togetheredness and in feeling inferior and left behind. Then I decided to take steps to being fashion-aware myself.

1. Notice what you are attracted to. Growing up, I was told not to covet or lust. But there is a difference between that and admiration/appreciation. Enjoying beauty is a good thing.
A good exercise is to go on Pinterest and randomly “pin” whatever catches your eye. You will begin to notice patterns of what you like. 

2. Understand why you are attracted to it. God created beauty, and created us to enjoy it. Beauty is something you need. Instead of feeling shamed for noticing a cute guy (I didn’t want to jump in bed with him, I just liked looking at him), I began to ask questions about why I noticed him: did he have a strong jaw? Good nose? Great hair? Once I broke it down, I could understand myself better.
A good exercise is to go back to what you pinned on pinterest and pick out specific points: “I like that dress because…Her face stands out because of her eyebrows…”

3. Choose your “Theme.” After identifying things you like and don’t like, you can then find a theme emerging. This isn’t to box you in, but to help define your style, using words that other people can understand as well: Natural (sporty, surf), Dramatic (goth, glam, rocker), Behemian (hippie), Urban (preppy), Classic (sophisticated, elegant), Trendy (chic), Romantic, Creative, Vintage...find your words/combinations.

  A good exercise might be this style quiz

4. Build your theme. Fashion requires time and energy. In the focus of giving to others, it had somehow become wrong for me to spend time on myself. The truth is to serve others, you need to know yourself and be the best you. Your style is part of who you are and investing in it is creating the best you. Find a balance. Take time to add your beauty to the world—inside and out.
A good exercise is to go through your closet and get rid of clothes that do not fit in your style, as well as choosing a couple of basic clothing items to purchase that bring out your theme.

5. Know body type (triangle/pear, inverted triangle/apple, rectangle/banana, hourglass, petite, busty), and colors (cool or warm tone, spring, summer, fall, winter):
You may fit into multiple body types, but each one has certain do’s and don’ts. Growing up, everyone was kind and supportive, but only recently have I had a couple of specific people stop and take time to tell me what looked good on my body, and what didn’t. I had no idea that by just changing a few simple things I could look so different.

A good exercise is to find someone you trust and try on every single piece of clothing with them and a good, large mirror. Identify the things that work for your body type and colors that work and don’t work.

6. Think in terms of outfits. I get overwhelmed when I am suddenly supposed to look beautiful for some event. Because I know this about myself, I have a couple of “go to” outfits. I know I have looked good in them in the past, I know they make me feel beautiful, and I know they are do-able.
A good exercise would be to put together three outfits for each season—from dressy to casual/around the house. If you want to take it to the next level, take a picture in each one. From those tried-and-true outfits, you can mix and match and know it will come out great. And don’t forget accessories for each outfit!

7. Step outside your comfort zone and try new things. I needed someone standing next to me, consistently giving me complements before I bought a pair of skinny jeans. I just highlighted my hair for the first time. You might not be a go-getter fashionista, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look good. A good exercise is to add just one thing to your outfit—something unexpected/interesting/individual—each time you dress up, to widen your fashion comfort zone.

8. Posture and confidence speak louder than clothes. Practicing a powerful stance with good posture not only immediately makes your clothes look better on you, it also helps give you confidence—even if you are bluffing. 
A good exercise is to just do it.

9. Beauty is a routine. Exercising, showering, sleeping, drinking water, brushing/flossing, washing make-up off every night, lotion at night, sunscreen during the day…you know you are supposed to do all of this, but do you? If not, why not? If it is because of time, work to schedule it in. literally. If it is because you just don’t get around to it—is it because you think you aren’t worth it? Because you are. And those who love you will help you find the time to take care of you.
A good exercise is to take ten extra minutes before you leave the house (every time) to check yourself: did you brush/floss? Add something special to your outfit? Put on at least some lipstick/something that makes your face come alive?

10. Know that you yourself, alone, are enough. Something my “don’t draw attention” fashion taught me is that “Just me” works. The “no make-up, no style, just my personality” me had amazing friends and an amazing life. I may cringe when I see certain pictures of a past me, but I don’t regret it. I am glad that I am learning about fashion. That I am getting to know myself better, and my style. That I feel comfortable in the professional, business world. But me? I still believe that basketball shorts, t-shirt, and a sports bra are where it is at.

Inner beauty may be more important, but exterior beauty has immediate impact.”– Daniel Goh